PERSPECTIVE: Concept of CSR in Brum Is Here to Stay; While Individuals Regularly Dig Deep for Charity, There Are Still Businesses That Lack the Same Enthusiasm for Giving. Here Derek Inman, Chief Executive of the Birmingham Foundation, Explains Why It's Time for More Corporate Social Responsibility

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Byline: Derek Inman

What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Once an exotic ambition of corporate do-gooders, today it has become virtually omnipresent and in 2000 Tony Blair even appointed a Cabinet Minister to look after it.

This was the first such appointment in Europe reflecting the seriousness the Government places on the issue. Take a quick look at a number of corporate websites and you cannot miss such phrases as "a desire to put something back and "making a difference to the community". There are a few things it isn't.

It isn't about putting a few bob in the collector's bucket outside the local supermarket or making a donation to every tenth begging letter that arrives on the desk.

It's not even about going to a few charity events, buying a few raffle tickets and thinking that is my/the company's CSR contribution for the year. There are many wide and varied definitions but one of the best summaries is that "Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to the responsibilities a business faces in relation to the social and environmental impact of their operations." It starts with a company or individual having a desire and being given the opportunity to put something back into the community.

Locally for example, this means Birmingham giving back to Birmingham, the fortunate supporting the less fortunate and the advantaged supporting the disadvantaged. This desire has to be followed by action that ensures the donations are tax-efficient, cost effective.

Delivering a rewarding way of making a long-term investment in the city's community infrastructure and a sustainable difference to the local area.

Some more forward thinking businesses have always been charitable but in recent years it has become almost a prerequisite, particularly for big organisations.

Hyder Consulting, based in Aston, is this year celebrating its 150th Anniversary and a proud history of civil engineering design which includes Tower Bridge in London, Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia and the World's tallest building - The Burj in Dubai.

The international engineering firm has regularly helped to organise and sponsor an annual proms concert to raise funds for the Birmingham Foundation charity and believe that this CSR commitment has had a significant impact on their business success in Birmingham.

Many businesses could unquestionably do more to match the increased trend in personal donations.

Comic Relief continues to beat its targets year on year and more than 40 per cent of the population gave to the tsunami appeal.

Just a few years ago Live Aid 2 raised millions of pounds for those suffering in Africa.

There are a number of reasons for this increase. We have a healthy economy and subconsciously know we have more money in our pockets to give.

Some say that charity is the new religion, which explains why there has been such a substantial increase in charitable donations.

As many fall by the wayside in terms of religious beliefs, the need to reach out and help others remains.

This explains why when national tragedy strikes, millions come rushing to help.

The healthy economy means businesses are making more profits and so they should be digging deeper too. …